I signed up to 23AndMe early 2013... it cost $100 USD to spit into the plastic tube and I was pretty impressed two months later when the results arrived via their interactive website. So what is it?
23andMe (website) is a personal genomics and biotechnology company that offers direct-to-consumer genetic testing. Here's what it entails in practical terms:
- DNA Collection Kit: After purchasing, you receive a kit to collect your saliva sample. You then send this back to the company for analysis.
- Genetic Analysis: 23andMe analyzes your DNA to provide information about your ancestry, genetic traits, and potential health risks. This analysis looks at specific genetic markers to infer various attributes.
- Ancestry Information: The service can provide a detailed breakdown of your ancestral background, tracing your lineage and showing the percentage of your DNA that comes from different regions around the world.
- Health Risk Assessment: It can also indicate your genetic predisposition to certain health conditions. This includes carrier status for diseases like cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia.
- Trait Reports: The service can tell you about certain traits that are influenced by genetics, such as eye color, taste preferences, and potential response to certain medications.
- Data Privacy: Participants can choose whether or not to consent to have their anonymized genetic data used for scientific research.
- Online Interface: Results are typically accessed through an online account, where they're presented in a user-friendly format.
- No Medical Diagnosis: It’s important to note that 23andMe does not provide medical diagnoses. The health-related results are risk assessments and not definitive diagnoses.
- Genetic Counseling: For those who receive concerning or confusing results, genetic counseling services are often recommended to help interpret the findings.
- Community Aspect: Users can choose to connect with relatives who have also used the service and have agreed to share their information.
23andMe has been a pioneer in making genetic testing more accessible to the general public, highlighting both the potential and the complexities of personal genetic information in the age of consumer genetics.
23AndMe Example Screenshots
Since their first version which was very data-heavy, they've made the UI easy to read and fun. Here are some example pages screenshots from Nov 2023:
For many, this ancestor part is worth the money alone...
Plus... you might be able to track down some relatives (similar to ancestry.com).
The really awesome part, however, is that it will help diagnose what you are at risk for, plus other interesting snippets. I think I was lucky there was much scary for me to look at, but even if you are at an average risk of something like breast or testicular cancer, it will still show you some scary percentage stats for your ethnicity group etc that make you think "oh wow, I really need to get tested regularly". And if you are high risk for something you can tell your doctor. I won't show you those, I'll show you a fun one instead:
I'm 103kg right now (I've been moving around too much to exercise much)... and apparently for my height and ethnicity (6"4 white) I should try to get down to 98kg, so it gave me recommendations:
Anyhow, in summary, I'm a big fan.
If you want to see competitors, just turn to ChatGPT:
23andMe was established in 2006 by Linda Avey, Paul Cusenza, and Anne Wojcicki with the goals to provide genetic testing and interpretation services directly to consumers, and aspirations to create a database for research purposes. The year 2007 saw significant financial backing for the company, including a $3.9 million investment from Google, as well as contributions from Genentech, New Enterprise Associates, and Mohr Davidow Ventures. At that time, Anne Wojcicki, one of the co-founders of 23andMe, was married to Sergey Brin (a co-founder of Google). Wojcicki is now the CEO.